Customer Service: The New Viral Marketing

If you're looking for a great viral marketing idea, perhaps you need look no further than the humble, under-funded customer service department, and the extremely un-sexy transactional e-mails that support them. Time and again the E-mail Diva sees overlooked opportunities to make a real difference in a customer's view of a company--a view that is shared with a host of friends, colleagues and acquaintances--virally, if you will.

A few examples:

1. You have a problem with downloaded software. After trying in vain to solve your problem on the Web site, you submit a request to speak to a human being. You get a canned e-mail response that offers several ways to solve your problem yourself. Irritation with this non-service increases in direct proportion to the time spent on the site prior to submitting the request. How about, instead, a response that says, "Thank you for contacting us. We are sorry for the problem and want to help you solve it as soon as possible. Jane Doe on our support staff will get back to you within X hours. We appreciate your business and look forward to earning it today."



2. You are a new customer and have opted in. You get one of those inoffensive e-mails that asks you to confirm your subscription or prompts you to buy now. With these most-opened, most-read kind of e-mails, there is a big opportunity to surprise and delight. Discounts, digital goodies or a gift with purchase will help you feel the love and keep you wondering what other delights await inside future e-mails.

3. You are an enthusiast on a particular subject and contribute to forums or write blogs. Wouldn't you love to receive an e-mail from a real live person, providing some inside scoop from their company that might be of interest? Maybe some free samples, a sneak preview or even a thank-you for your contributions? Evangelists deserve a higher level of personal interaction, but we frequently treat them as those crazy loyalists who will always support our brand.

Of course there are hurdles to these ideas: legal, technical and logistical. But if we grasp the opportunity to use customer-service and customer-outreach communication to solve problems and encourage loyalty--even if it requires the input of an actual human being--the rewards can be impressive. Think Nordstrom or Starbucks. Is your company capable of reaping the viral benefits of great customer service, human and electronic?

Send your question to the E-mail Diva at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

The E-mail Diva is Melinda Krueger.

Would you like your e-mail program reviewed by the best minds in the business? Submit a sample e-mail to be considered for the E-mail Makeover Workshop at the E-mail Insider Summit. Send your submission to Melinda Krueger at Please put E-mail Makeover Submission in the title and provide contact information.

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